Your Feet and Your Health: Understand How Your Feet Can Cause Pain All Over Your Body
This article was provided by Dr. Kevin Wong, a chiropractor at Orinda Chiropractic & Laser Center in Orinda, CA. If you would like to learn more, please visit https://www.orindachiropractic.com/.
It seems like a whirlwind since the day I graduated from Palmer West Chiropractic back in 1996. One minute, I am getting my diploma, then I blink my eyes and it has been 21 solid years in practice. During that time, I have developed a deeper love and respect for practicing and teaching Chiropractic to my patients and my students.
Most of us agree that the body as a whole is an important organism and understanding it can be a complex task. The spine remains very important to the essence of my daily work but practice taught me quickly that other bodily components come into play. Over the years, understanding and treating the extremities (i.e. feet, ankles, shoulders, jaw, etc.)has moved to the forefront of my everyday practice.
The combination of extremity analysis and adjusting into my protocols has allowed me to help so many more people over the years than treating just the spine. It has given me the confidence and knowledge in understanding how these body parts affect the stability of the spine.
Since the prevalence of extremity involvement is frequently overlooked and ignored by many medical professional, including Chiropractors, I have enjoyed making these areas part of my patient education in teaching people how to listen to their bodies. It allows us great success as we work together.
The Feet are the Foundation of the Body
It has been my experience that more than any other part of the body, the feet are
overlooked on a regular basis. Part of this is because there is not a lot of training in medical or Chiropractic school on how important the feet are. Also, most patients out in practice look to Podiatrists or Orthopedists as feet experts and never think that Chiropractors take care of these areas. This is thinking I have had to work against all these years in practice.
The general public pegs Chiropractors as being “neck and back doctors” and it’s easy for patients to think this way as well. There is nothing wrong with being “back and neck doctors,” but I have learned so much more that I use to take care of people all day.
The fact that feet affect the rest of the body is not common knowledge. So let’s break this down so it makes more sense. The feet have three arches (medial longitudinal, lateral longitudinal, transverse or metatarsal) which are all supposed to be working to support the 26 bones of each foot. The stability of the tibia, fibula, femur, hips, pelvis and spine are all dependent on those three foot arches. Well-supported arches means that biomechanics are healthy and stress is reduced from the feet and ankles up through the rest of the body all the way up to the head.
When one or more of the arches aren’t working, we start to get problems. Arches that are unsupported or supported improperly will usually give us two outcomes: the feet roll in too much and flatten out (over-pronation) or they roll outwards (over-supination).
Classic supinators tend to put tremendous pressure on their lateral longitudinal and transverse arches of their feet. These are the people who truly do have a high instep or a high medial longitudinal arch when they are weight bearing. As interesting as it is to find someone like this, only about 3-5% of the population coming into your office are true supinators.
It is more common to find excessive pronators. This patient has the collapse of all three of the arches and their feet are often wider and longer as a result. The prevalence of these types of patients is in the 80-87% range. Individuals with flat feet are much more prevalent and this is very likely you!
When the arches of the feet fall or flatten into excessive foot pronation, the foot
physically drops downward towards the floor. As the foot drops, the ankle becomes stressed on the inside portion. This creates too much inward twisting of the tibia and femur. This inwards rotation of the leg bones creates a stressful pulling on the hip bones. Following the chain of events upwards, the pelvis torques backwards creating stress to the lumbar spine (lower back) and upwards to the thoracic, cervical and skull areas.
Very often, patients present without any pain in their feet at all. The pain actually presents itself higher up in the hips, pelvis and/or spine. Or a patient may only have knee pain or hip pain or back pain. The key is to realize that the feet are the gateways to the rest of the body. A lack of support in one or both feet will have negative affects for the body over time. It may not be today, tomorrow or next month, but it will happen. You are likely experiencing this to some degree now.
Think Outside the Box and Outside the Spine!
Practice has taught me well to listen to what my patients are telling me. In fact, this is one of the greatest strengths of Chiropractic. We Listen! It’s my job to listen to you with a very open mind and heart. I am always thinking outside of the box and the spine.
Let’s take, for example, a typical patient who comes to me with a lower back complaint. This patient truly has pain and other clinical findings in the lower back. It is very easy to focus on what is happening at that specific area and figure out how to treat it accordingly. I am good at treating lower backs. But what if the problem was not actually the lower back? What if the symptoms are there, but the problem is actually from somewhere else?
Would it interest you to know that 85-90% of patients coming to me for lower back pain actually have problems which originate in their feet? It is a very powerful patient education tool to be able to check patient’s feet, identify the arch problems and give them the tools to help reduce and alleviate their pain.
Why is it Important to Look to the Feet First?
The feet are the foundation of our house and the biomechanical importance they
possess is incredible. Have you ever heard terms like: plantar fascitis, Morton’s
Neuroma, metatarsalgia, heel spurs/pain, hallux valgus and hammer toes? These are some of the major conditions that I deal with for patients.
So what can you expect as things we may be discussing? Here are some simple tips:
- Stabilizing orthotics: I often recommend flexible, 3 arch, custom-made foot orthotics for my patients because they help promote healthy biomechanics, neurology and circulation for the foot. I often have patients bring in old orthotics they have or are currently wearing so I can check them and see how they are working. A good pair of stabilizing orthotics will change people’s lives and allow them to do activities they enjoy and enhance their quality of life.
If you already have some or think your support is adequate, then we will talk
about it. I want you to be informed and educated and you can make your
own choices with what treatment you want me to provide. I will never force anything on you.
- Foot exercises:
- Using a foot roller, tennis ball, golf ball or firm rubber ball, the patient can stand and pressure under the various parts of the foot. This helps stretch the tight plantar fascia and intrinsic foot muscles.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises. This involves simples stretching of
the feet and legs and can include resistive exercises later.
- Recommend supportive shoes. Remember, supportive shoes don’t have to be ugly ones. I suggest you bring 3-4 pairs of the shoes you wear a lot so I can look at them for you. We can figure out together how to let you wear shoes you like but still have support.
I have enjoyed developing a practice specialty in dealing with patients’ feet. It is
amazing how people appreciate being taught about how important the feet are to health. I also marvel at how many patients say “I have always thought that my feet were involved, but no one has ever acknowleged them before.” I look forward to helping you understand your body better. Who knows? Those feet of your just may be involved with your back pain after all.